No one wants their Texas estate to be the subject of protracted probate litigation among family members and other beneficiaries. An orderly and uncontested disposition of one's estate saves money and spares families from the often irreversible effects on relationships that occur after a will contest reaches its conclusion.
According to some estate planning experts, however, people are not doing enough to preclude this potential outcome and are instead leaving the door open for a possible probate challenge. Some suggest that people should go beyond creating a simple will and include more sophisticated implements in their estate plan, such as a revocable trust.
The benefit of a revocable trust is that it, unlike a will, avoids the probate process. Probate can require a number of expenses and, depending on the complexity of the estate, could last months or even up to a year. It is also a matter of public record. By contrast, assets held in trust pass privately outside of probate.
During their lifetime, people can transfer assets into their trusts. When they pass away, a trustee manages the trust assets and can distribute them in accordance with the expressed wishes of those who created the trusts. Generally speaking, trusts are more resistant to challenges than wills and they can help a person's estate remain out of the courtroom.
Of course, estate planning is a highly personalized process that requires documents to be tailored closely to each person's assets and the intentions surrounding their division. Therefore, it is important for people to examine the myriad estate planning options available and choose the ones best suited to their circumstances.
Source: U.S. News & World Report, "How to Avoid Fights Over Inheritance," David Francis, July 17, 2012.